Degree Pathways are the New Pre-Majors

A Message from Isis Artze-Vega, Vice President, Academic Affairs, and Degree Pathways Design Team Co-chair

For the last 10 months, a 17-person Degree Pathways Design Team, comprised of faculty, deans, advisors, and both academic and student affairs leaders, has been making steady progress on work commissioned by Learning Council after last year’s pre-majors challenges. Specifically, the team has been considering how to streamline and demystify the pathway to an Associate in Arts degree and help ensure students have the necessary information and courses needed to transfer into their preferred bachelor’s degree program.

Another intention of this work is that we shift our practice, particularly in advising, from using varied planning tools to one comprehensive tool. The 10 design principles guiding the work were generated based on input gathered from across the College. The degree pathway tool will:

  1. Clarify, specify and demystify academic pathways.
  2. Facilitate student planning, including timing (when to take what) and financial planning.
  3. Advance students’ actual and perceived readiness for transfer.
  4. Explicitly and transparently communicate that select grants cannot be used past the completion of the Associate in Arts (A.A.), yet other forms of financial aid may be available.
  5. Account for pre-requisite courses beyond 60 college-level credits.
  6. Support students’ independent planning (versus assume collaboration with advisor).
  7. Support students in fostering/regaining the sense of disciplinary identity generated by terms like “pre-major.”
  8. Help students avoid accumulation of excess credit hours.
  9. Include only courses explicitly required by the University of Central Florida (UCF) as outlined in its catalog.
  10. Work synergistically with the degree audit.

Once the design principles were finalized, the team examined all of our existing planning tools — from Start Right Guides to My Education Plan — to identify the best features and content areas from each and ensure that we build on what is working. Students were surveyed to see what name resonated with them, and they selected “Degree Pathways” as the term that will replace Pre-Majors and Transfer Plans. The new tool itself will be called the Pathway Plan.

Based on our inventory of tools, the program advisors on the team developed several templates. These were then shared with a variety of users to gather feedback and suggestions for enhancement. Nearly 400 students, 18 New Student Experience faculty and 26 advisors provided input. Notably, 53 out of 57 students indicated that they prefer a term-by-term plan that includes all required coursework.

After compiling the feedback, the team combined the best elements of each into a new Pathway Plan. Advisors are working to build Pathway Plans for the areas that had Pre-Majors and Transfer Plans with both full-time (12 credits) and half-time (six credits) options. During this phase of the work, which we’re calling Phase I, we are developing a paper/static tool with focus on transfer to UCF, the primary transfer institution for our students. Since we are focusing on reducing excess credits and transfer to UCF, our initial Pathway Plans will include the common program prerequisites (CPPs) and core courses as noted in the UCF catalog.

The plans will also contain pathway-specific information, such as whether access to the intended major is limited, whether there is a portfolio or audition requirement, or whether there are additional credits beyond the A.A. degree requirement needed to be accepted to the major. A financial aid notation will provide information related to credits needed for the degree and how aid may be impacted by coursework outside of what is included in the Pathway Plan.

Next in this process, program advisors will create/draft Pathway Plans this month during a collegewide meeting. They will then share the drafts with the academic divisions for their review and feedback, particularly on the sequencing of courses, pathway/discipline-specific guidance and any additional advising suggestions to keep students on track. We anticipate that students will begin using the Pathway Plans in May.

Given the importance of disciplinary identity that was inherent with Pre-Majors (as in, students would identify as a “Business Pre-Major”), we propose to now refer to students by meta-major (such as “STEM students”) or by the overarching intended transfer major (such as “Education students”). This acknowledges their desire to connect to a bachelor’s major and honors the 2+2 nature of our Degree Pathways.

Where will you see the Degree Pathways and Pathway Plans?

  • In the catalog
  • In New Student Orientation
  • In the New Student Experience course
  • In advising sessions
  • In Atlas, in the LifeMap tab
  • On our website’s Future Students page

Among specific catalog changes, the current Pre-Majors and Transfer Plans will no longer be included in the catalog. Instead, a new Degree Pathways section will be located under the A.A. area to make it explicit that the Degree Pathways are a pathway to the A.A. degree. The catalog will show the requirements by General Education disciplines and Electives, and include the Common Program Prerequisites and Core courses where they fit into the A.A. degree requirements.

Information will be included on how to access the Pathway Plan to create a term-by-term plan for success. The Pathway Plans are advising guides for students working toward the A.A. degree and are not stand-alone programs. As such, we will remove the current Program Outcomes from the catalog. However, we can still highlight the outcomes for the Pathway Plan on our website and in advising sessions, as well as assess student learning for improvement in Valencia course work and transfer preparedness.

Phase II of the work includes using CFEED (Central Florida Education Ecosystem Database) data to determine next steps (and pathways to develop), the creation of Associate in Science Pathway Plans and considering pathways beyond those to UCF (including within Valencia to our bachelor’s degrees). Additionally, we are looking for technology solutions to move the Pathway Plans to an online, interactive platform.

If you have any questions or feedback about the Degree Pathways work, contact me at iartzevega@valenciacollege.edu or 407-299-5000, extension 3055 or Design Team Co-chair, Sonya Joseph, associate vice president, enrollment management at sjoseph@valenciacollege.edu or 407-299-5000, extension 7734.

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